A 15-Minute Beginner Barre Workout to Improve Posture and Build Core Strength

The benefits of a barre workout include building muscle mass in a low-impact way.
Image Credit: kovaciclea/E+/GettyImages

First, let's clear up one common misconception about barre: It's ‌not‌ a dance workout.

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Yes, it includes ballet-based strength exercises (as well as elements of Pilates and yoga). You will hear words like "plié" and "relevé." And it was developed by Lotte Berk, a dancer who sought to rehabilitate her body after struggling with a spinal injury.

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But despite barre's connections to dance, it's not about performing. You don't need a dance background or a sense of rhythm to try it. In fact, anyone who wants to build muscle, strengthen their core, improve their posture or switch up their current resistance training program can benefit from barre workouts — even if they have two left feet.

A 15-Minute Beginner Barre Workout

Programmed by Lauren George?,? CPT, fitness instructor, educator and founder of Lauren George Fitness, the following barre workout contains six movements that, when performed together, deliver a low-impact, full-body workout. Set aside about 15 minutes to cycle through the series twice, resting for 30 seconds after each exercise.

You'll need a chair and enough space to move your arms and legs. Wear comfortable clothes and kick off your shoes, but keep your socks on.

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1. Second Position Plié to Relevé

Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Stand next to a chair that's place on your left side.
  2. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed out. This is second position.
  3. Hold onto the back of the chair with your left hand and extend your right arm out to the side, allowing a slight bend in the elbow.
  4. Keeping your back straight and core braced, bend your knees and lower into a plié squat.
  5. Keeping your knees bent, lift your heels to balance on the balls of your feet in relevé and sweep your right arm up and over your head.
  6. Lower your heels to the ground and your arm to shoulder height.
  7. Squeeze through your inner thighs to return to standing as you lift your arm overhead.
  8. Repeat the sequence for 30 seconds.

2. Upright Parallel in Relevé

Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet parallel and thighs pressed together. Place both hands on the back of a chair.
  2. Lift your heels and bend your knees slightly, keeping your back flat. Imagine that the back of your head, shoulders, hips and heels are touching the same wall. This is your starting position.
  3. Bend your knees to lower your body a few inches. Imagine that your back is sliding down the wall.
  4. Return to the starting position and lower again, keeping the heels lifted.
  5. Repeat for 30 seconds.

3. Curtsy Lunge to Oblique Knee Lift

Sets 2
Reps 10
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Stand next to a chair that's place on your left side.
  2. Hold onto the back of a chair with your left hand and stand in a curtsy position: your left foot in front and right foot behind it, heel raised. The toes of both feet should be pointed outward, and your right foot should be back far enough so that you can reach in between your legs.
  3. Extend your right arm to the side at shoulder height. This is the starting position.
  4. Bend your knees, hinge at your hips and lower your torso and right arm toward the ground in a deep curtsy.
  5. As you return to standing, lift your right arm overhead, draw your right leg forward and tap your right toes out to the side.
  6. Using your right obliques, lift your right knee and lower your right elbow to tap them together.
  7. Return your right foot to the side as you lift your right arm overhead.
  8. Draw your right foot back behind the left and repeat the sequence.
  9. Complete 10 reps, then switch sides.

4. First Position Plié to Passé

Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Stand next to a chair that's place on your left side.
  2. Stand in first position with your heels together and toes pointed out.
  3. Hold onto the back of the chair with your left hand and extend your right arm to the side at shoulder height.
  4. Lift your heels so that you’re balancing on the balls of your feet, then reconnect your heels so that they’re pressed together. This is the starting position.
  5. Keeping your heels lifted, bend your knees to pilé.
  6. As you return to standing, lift your right knee and touch your right toes to your left leg. Lift the right arm overhead, bending your elbow slightly.
  7. Return to the starting position and repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

5. Side-Lying Leg Lift

Sets 2
Reps 10
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Stand next to a chair that's place on your left side.
  2. Stand in first position with your heels together and toes pointed out.
  3. Hold onto the back of the chair with your left hand (the chair should be placed to the side a straight arm’s distance away) and place your right hand on your hip or behind your head.
  4. Tip your torso to the left and rest your left forearm on the chair.
  5. Pointing your toes, lift your right leg out to the side. Keep your leg within the frame of your body; don’t allow your hip to tip forward or fall back. (This is more important than how high you lift your leg.)
  6. Lower your right leg, tapping your toes to the floor, then repeat.
  7. Complete 10 reps, then switch sides.

6. Flat Back Fold-Over With Leg Lift

Sets 2
Reps 10
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Stand about a straight arm’s distance from the back of a chair.
  2. Place one forearm on top of the other, fold over at the waist and rest your forearms on the back of the chair. Your forehead should hover above your hands.
  3. Walk your feet back until they’re under your hips, then extend your right foot behind you, resting your toes on the floor.
  4. Keeping your hips square, lift the right leg. Only go as high as you can while keeping your lower back flat and still; you should be lifting with just your glutes and hamstrings.
  5. Lower your leg and repeat.
  6. Complete 10 reps, then switch sides.

The Benefits of a Barre Workout

There's more than one reason barre appeals to strength-training newbies who find the weight room intimidating ‌and‌ seasoned gym-goers seeking a change of pace: It's fun, challenging and offers a ton of health and fitness-related benefits.

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1. It Builds Muscle Mass

Barre is a muscular endurance workout, according to George. "That means it's typically a higher rep, lower weight workout. We're using the principle of increasing time under tension [the amount of time a muscle is under strain] to help the muscles get to the point of fatigue where they break down and build back stronger," she says.

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This makes barre an ideal workout for someone who wants to gain strength and enough muscle mass to create visible definition but not necessarily maximize hypertrophy (muscle growth), like traditional weightlifting and bodybuilding.

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2. It Improves Posture

Proper barre form emphasizes good posture, and many common barre exercises target the muscles that allow you to stand up straight and maintain alignment as you move.

"You work a ton of muscles that are really important for good posture, like your upper back, your middle back and your core," George says.

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3. It Bolsters Core Strength

With barre, you don't need to lift ‌and‌ do additional core exercises — they're built right into the workout.

"Barre is a great way to improve your core strength. Not only do you do core exercises on the ground in barre, but also the movements that you do standing in the middle of the room and at the barre all require dynamic stabilization of the core. That's because so many of [the movements] require balance work," George says.

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4. It Targets Stabilizing Muscles

After your first few barre classes, you may be sore in places you didn't know you could be sore, George warns. "You work so many of those small stabilizer muscles we don't use a lot in our everyday life," she says.

By targeting these muscles and creating more stability in your body, you can move more efficiently and potentially reduce your risk of injury.

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5. It's Low-Impact

Most barre exercises are low-impact, which means they're well-suited for people who don't want to place a lot of stress on their joints. "But that doesn't mean they're easy," George says. "They can be high-intensity or challenging and still be low-impact."

6. It Offers Movement Variety

We spend most of our time in the sagittal plane, moving forward and backward. "We sit, we walk, we run, even cycling is a forward and backward motion. We don't go side to side a ton," George says.

In barre, your feet are often turned out, and many of the exercises are lateral. "So, it's a fabulous way to cross-train," George says, and build strength in different planes of motion.

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